dad is important too

Nothing Can Prepare You For the Loss of Divorce

The moment your children enter the world your entire life changes. Your motivations. Your objectives. Suddenly, and like magic, you become a parent. And if you’re lucky and diligent, you will stay a married parent. Your kids will grow up in a loving home. However…

Over 50% of Marriages End in Divorce

That sucks. If you have kids with this partner, it sucks even more. You can never tell the other parent how you feel. Once the divorce is official, and you’ve received the non-custodial parent role, with child support payments, the need for shelter, and only 30% of your kids time. Well, as the thinking goes, you’ll need those extra hours to keep up with your child support payments. In my state, as in most states in the US, dads get the non-custodial and paying role 85% of the time. Does that mean the system is rigged? Sort of. Not for the reasons you think, probably.

The Attorney General’s Office of the great state of Texas uses 60% of its budget and resources to go after deadbeat parents who are not paying their child support.Here’s the rub: the federal government reimburses the OaG based on the amount of money in “enforcement actions.” Collections. The OaG is a big debt collector. And, for dads like me, who were minding their own business, doing their best at getting by, the AG’s office is often weaponized against dads. In my case, for no good reason.

My ex-wife got to keep the house and the paid-off car. She got the lion’s share of the kids’ time. She got a child support payment that covered the mortgage and more. All she had to do was cover expenses. I got a $2,000 – $2,500 monthly bill, depending on my employment status and cost of healthcare for the two kids. I got to live with my sister for half a year until I found a more lucrative job, so I could afford to pay for a living space. And, on top of it all, I got my kids LESS THAN HALF the time my wife got them. Why?

Are moms more important than dads? At any age?

The Science Is In: Dads Are Vital

Look it up. Kids who grow up without a dad are more likely to end up in trouble, in gangs, or incarcerated. The percentage is a lot higher than you think. (Google it, I’ll wait.)

Now, somewhere along the journey from cooperative divorce to I WANT IT ALL, my ex-wife determined that her love was more important, more essential, and better for the kids. And, guess what, the family law in most states agrees with her. But it’s not because moms are better parents, or kids need their moms more than their dads. It’s because the state wants to collect child support to fund more employees. If a couple comes in and agrees to 50/50 parenting (as my ex and I agreed to) and tell the court they don’t need child support or the AG’s supervision, the state generates no income from this divorce.

Shouldn’t we update the laws to reflect the balance of parenting required for healthy kids? Shouldn’t we level the playing field of divorce to make it equitable, rather than a lottery win for the disgruntled ex-wives of the world?

My ex-wife did not need the money. She never came close to defaulting on her mortgage. She was not worried that I was going to abandon my fatherly duty. Heck, I couldn’t get enough time with my kids. She had a house that I was paying for, she had a car with no payments, and she was angry that I seemed to be happy. Sure, I was living in a small starter home where the kids shared a bedroom, but I at least had a place to live. A place where I could begin to put my life back together again.

Dismal Divorce Imbalance

Dads who get behind on child support are usually not deadbeat dads. Dads who give all their available to time to the kids, and who are always available for carpools, sporting events, sleep overs, whatever, should not be punished by vindictive ex-wives. My wife filed with the AG’s office for one reason only: to hurt me.

The part that I guess she didn’t understand, but I wish she would, is this: any action taken against your co-parent is an action that will hurt your children. 100%!

Yes, my ex-wife scored a victory. I had to sell my house and move in with my mom. The AG’s action she took eliminated all of my financial options to keeping the house. And for 12 years, the AG’s office had a black mark on my credit report. Even when I was completely caught up. In fact, I was still on record as a deadbeat dad up until a year ago, when I finally got them to close OUR account. Two years after I had paid off all of my child support and my daughter was off to college. Do you know why? They actually owed me money. [It would be an LOL moment if it hadn’t wreaked havoc on my life for so many years.]

At this point, moms who file against dads for reasons other than failure to pay or abandonment, are the actual deadbeats. My ex-wife liked to try and tell me, “Most divorces go through the AG’s office.” Bullshit. Like it was no big deal. This was after she was remarried, still getting child support, and living with a new “dad.”

My ex-wife is not an evil person. She made some selfish and evil decisions when she renigged on our collaborative divorce and went for the gusto. She had every right to do that. She should’ve been more aware of the KIDS’ loss. Instead, she focused only on her needs. And she grabbed everything she could get. Why she then felt it necessary to file with the AG’s office to prevent me from keeping my house, I’ll never know. I don’t want to ask her. I don’t want to talk to her about anything. She’s still full of venom.

The Loss

Here’s the part she needs to hear. The venom she is nurturing is poisoning her and her relationship to our two children. Each week I hear more *bs* that she and her husband are putting over on our kids. They are 21 and 23. We talk. The lies are being slowly rolled back and exposed.

My loss was complete. I fell into a deep depression. I worked my way out of it. I found a new job. I bought a house. I continued to make my way and my child support payments, but I was wounded deeply by the loss of my kids. What I imagined when my kids were born and as we parented them through their elementary years, was that I would be with them every morning and every night until they left the house for college. That’s not how it went down. And while I’m guessing my ex-wife still feels like she did the right thing, how could she know? She was is so blinded by her agenda that the kids come last. Still.

She and her husband are remodeling a house. That is their priority. The kids, in college, are an afterthought. Perhaps, even a burden.

For me, my kids are what have kept me going, fighting to stay in their lives, even as their mother could care less what happened to me or my living conditions. We are very different. I would have NEVER gone for more than the 50/50 shared parenting we agreed to when we began the collaborative divorce discussions. NEVER.

It’s a shame that we won’t be able to collaborate on weddings and the birth of grandchildren. It’s okay, she’s married to a troll, so she’s in the bed she made. I am hoping to show my kids a better way to live with kindness and compassion.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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